LAS VEGAS — Squatters who entered a Las Vegas home and found the elderly owner dead decided to cut up and bury her body before draining her finances and living in her house, authorities said.
No charges have been filed against the people who buried Lucille Payne, but charges of fraud and unlawful disposal of a human being are possible, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Las Vegas police investigators initially believed Payne, 82, had been murdered, the newspaper reported. The Clark County Coroner’s Office found evidence of stab wounds and what appeared to be blunt force trauma.
Payne’s death was ruled a homicide, but that designation was changed to “undetermined” as authorities learned more about what allegedly took place.
A tip on April 15 led police officers to Payne’s home in the 8300 block of Shore Breeze Drive. There, the officers noticed “disturbed dirt” in the backyard.
Payne’s body was buried in a shallow grave, the Review-Journal reported.
Detectives learned that no one had seen or heard from Payne since the summer of 2018. She had no family, and her bills were set to autopay from her bank account, according to authorities.
No one noticed her death.
Lt. Ray Spencer, of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told the newspaper and KLAS-TV that squatters happened upon the home earlier this year and found Payne’s mummified body sitting in a chair.
Instead of reporting her death, they dismembered her, buried her and began trying to drain her bank account. They also sold some of her belongings, including her car, Spencer said.
“After finding her, the decision was made between several people that they were going to dismember her body and bury her, and then basically drain her finances and sell off her belongings, fraudulently,” Spencer said, according to KLAS-TV. “She was not buried very deeply, and an officer started to move the dirt and found her arm inside a very shallow grave in the backyard.”
Neighbors told the news station that Payne’s home had appeared vacant for the past few years. They told authorities they’d heard digging in the backyard in recent weeks.
Payne’s estate is now selling the house, authorities said. Detectives are still trying to find the elderly woman’s next of kin.
“There’s a lot of people without family,” Spencer said, according to the Review-Journal. “Check on your neighbors. Because it is sad that she’d been there for so long and nobody had checked on her.
“People might not have family, but as a community we need to check on our neighbors.”
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